Does this scenario sound familiar?
You’ve spent dozens, maybe hundreds, of hours poring over the pages of shelter magazines and clicking through your favorite design blogs, studying the minutest details of unforgettable interiors. You’ve gleaned tons of great tips and ideas, which you’ve been able to apply in your own home. You’re so excited with the results, you can’t wait to share them with your friends. So you snap a few iPhone photos. But when you post the images on Facebook or Instagram or look at them full-size on your computer screen, the pictures don’t even come close to doing the room design justice. How can you style and shoot your interiors to best effect, even if all you ever want to do is e-mail them to your sister in San Antonio or post them on social media?
Annie’s in-house styling and photography crew came up with these easy-to-follow tips, which will take the guesswork out of how to photograph your rooms beautifully and effectively, every single time.
- Avoid shooting into “black holes” like fireplaces and dark windows. There isn’t much you can do to make these spaces look lighter, so your best bet is to either rearrange furniture to hide them, or change the angle you shoot from—or both. These images show the same room, with the same portion of the room from two different vantage points, and it’s easy to see how much the image is improved simply by shifting over a few feet to keep the fireplace on the very border of the photo.
- Focus on vignettes rather than on a single wide-angle room shot. Wide shots tend to encourage a visual-clutter effect, and often lack a clear focal point. Homing in on smaller areas—think reading nooks, styled console tables with artwork on the wall above, one-third of a bed and its accompanying nightstand—provides something for the eye to focus on and appreciate, and limits the amount of visual stimulus in a photo.
- Feature unique architectural details. These elements—from ornate molding to wide-plank walls, built-in cabinets, unique window trim, and barn board—can elevate a good room design to great one.
- Simplify shelf and coffee-table styling. Start by grouping like objects—for example, a small collection of ceramic vases—by color, on their own shelves. If you’re using books, picture frames, decorative boxes, or other objects with hard edges, mix in organic elements with contrasting shapes, such as branches, seashells, or stones. Try not to get carried away; generally speaking, the simpler the styling, the more impactful, and the more it will shine a spotlight on items you treasure.
- Make sure walls, railings, wood paneling and other horizontal and vertical elements are parallel with the framing of your photo. Using a tripod will help keep the camera steady and your framing on-point.
- Include items with personal meaning. These can be anything from sculpture or handcrafts you’ve picked up during your travels to family heirlooms, unusual antiques, or DIY projects you’re especially proud of. By telling your unique décor story, you’ll instantly make the room designer richer and more inviting—and more interesting to look at on screen.
- Bring in pops of color. If you lean toward neutral interiors, a judicious pop or two of color will bring your room to life. Space out these color pops within the room to keep the eye moving.
- Use natural light—not your camera’s flash—whenever possible. Flash concentrates light in a single area, makes colors look unnatural, and blows out details like texture. Wait until times of day when there is good—but not intensely bright—natural light coming through your windows; early to mid-morning and late afternoon are best.
- Use the white balance setting on your phone. This avoids the color cast—for example, an overabundance of blue or yellow tones—that often appears in photos because of the type of lighting in the room.
To access white balance on the iPhone, tap the Settings icon, then tap ADV. Keep tapping the icon next to the shutter button until the WB icon appears. The default setting is Auto white balance, but you can use the slider next to the Auto button to manually adjust the balance, until the colors appear truer to life. On most Android phones, the manual white balance setting can be found by swiping from the left side of the camera frame toward the middle, then sliding your finger around the settings menu.
- Adjust the exposure and contrast. Very few photos—even the ones you see on the pages of House Beautiful or Elle Décor—are perfect right after they’ve been taken; these magazines employ entire armies of image editors and color-correctors to make the photos look as good as they do. You may not be able to achieve the quality of the experts, but adjusting the exposure and contrast of your images will go a long way toward lightening them and amping up the colors. Simply press the Edit icon on the photo in question, and look for the circular icon with the plus and minus signs to access the exposure/contrast menu. From here, you can manually adjust both until you find just the right balance of light, shadow, and color.